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Viola da gamba

viola da gamba ~ Image via Wikipedia

While including a link in a previous post,
I was thrilled to see that Fortunato (“Freddy”) Arico was one of two cellists
on the
recording involved.

Arico’s name led me to recall the first time I heard him play.  He riveted my attention immediately, starting with the very first note.

Scene:  top balcony of The Riverside Church in New York.

Program:  “St. Matthew Passion” of J.S. Bach

Performers:  The Westminster Robert Shaw Summer Choral Workshop, with orchestra

Memorable Soloist:  Thomas Pyle, singing the role of Jesus as a committed, dramatic interpreter.

My housemate and good buddy Margaret and I drove to New York​ for the  performance.  I knew that Shaw was conducting and Tommy was one of the soloists.  We took either Margaret’s way cool blue Saab or my funky orange VW bug, driving back to Amherst the same night.

Freddy played the continuo part on the viola da gamba.  He had a lot of work to do!  His sound was the most beautiful I had ever heard.  The rhythm he projected was incredibly sharp and arresting.  And for that palpable sense of total involvement to reach the second balcony?  That simply doesn’t happen often.

Tom Pyle sang from the pulpit!  Most appropriate, I thought.  And when Jesus spoke to the crowd, Tommy turned to the chorus!  I’d say he paid attention to the words.

He saw the role as a living story.  He was acting the part, not facing the audience at all times as an oratorio soloist normally would.  Members of the audience heard him just fine, and were drawn into the dramatic elements of the performance as well.  His gorgeous baritone voice seemed to roll effortlessly across that enormous space.

Freddy’s gamba playing inspired me to attend several Aston Magna concerts in the Berkshires later.  I am so glad to have been there.

Read more about Aston Magna on the eminent harpsichordist Albert Fuller’s blog.

Have you attended an especially memorable concert?  Please share your experience in the comment section below!

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